My eyes fluttered open at the first light of day. Grayish hues scattered across the dawn-lit sky, the ambient rays of the rising sun peaking over the distant horizon, and beaming down trace amounts of warmth to a cold desert. I sat up and watched it for a bit, my eyes blinking lazily while I tried to find the energy to get myself up. I wished I could stay, lay on the soft grass, and enjoy the full extent of the morning, but unfortunately, duty called. I looked around the hidden oasis.
Everything seemed so still and beautiful at this hour. I yawned, did a couple of stretches to get the blood moving, and then stood.
I started making my way over to the center of the oasis where the waters pooled, its' surface as smooth as glass. Along the way, I passed the boulder where Mr. Lizard waited for the sun to warm his reptilian blood.
“Hello, Mr. Lizard,” I said. “How are you this fine morning?”
Mr. Lizard slowly craned his head up at me and blinked each eye.
“Good, I suppose,” he grumbled.
“Oh, come now. Today looks like it's gonna be a good one.”
Mr. Lizard closed his eyes, flattened himself out, and mumbled something I could not understand.
“What?” I asked.
“Talk to me later, Gary.”
Mr. Lizard could be such a grouch in the morning.
There was a flapping of wings overhead and then a falcon perched itself atop one of the trees bordering the waters of the oasis.
“Ahh, Gary!” she called, “good morning to you.”
“Good morning, Ms. Falcon,” I said with a smile. “What news do you bring?”
“So far, it looks like you might have three today.”
“Three you say?”
“Yup, they are walking the South Dune trail and have been for some time now. They’ll need a resupply of water before nightfall. Better get moving.”
“Thanks for the update.”
Ms. Falcon screeched, flapped her wings, and departed to the north. I made my way over to the pool and leaned over its reflective edge, my long neck craning down to its pristine surface. Staring back at me was my reflection: A smiling, happy camel. I loved my job of bringing water to people in need. It was a trade I learned from my former master.
A great man he was, possessing nothing but the desire to help others in need. He lived out here, in this oasis, living a hermit’s life and he was my most cherished friend. During the day, we would walk the dunes together, looking for weary travelers, and every night, when we would return, we would gaze up at the night sky while he gently pet me behind the ear until I fell asleep. Unfortunately, a few years back, he accidentally stepped on a scorpion's nest and the vile things stung him. He died but I vowed to continue what he started, delivering water to people in need until I drew my last breath.
Just as I had done many times before, I began transferring mouthfuls of water into a 3ft wooden barrel with a leather strap attached to it. It was a tedious chore, and just as I was finishing, Mrs. Squirrel and her family came from their burrow and sat next to me. Once done, the family hoisted the nearby wooden lid and used its latches to secure it to the barrel. I slid my head through the strap, and Mrs. Squirrel adjusted the neck pad. Then, I hoisted the barrel up and allowed it to slide down to the base of my neck. Once the family fitted the strap, I started on my journey.
“Have a good day at work, Gary!” Mrs. Squirrel called.
“Thanks!” I shouted back and then set out across the sandy dunes in search of the three travelers.
After about 12 miles, I came across the first who struggled his way up a large dune. As I approached, he looked at me, his black eyes peering through the long, gray scarf wrapped around his head and covering his face from the sun. The pack he carried looked dangerously flat. We walked toward each other and, once together, I stood still while he filled his water skins from the barrel. When he was finished, he reached up and pet the top of my head. I smiled.
“Thank you,” the man said and then patted my hump and continued on his way.
A few hours later, I found the second traveler and replenished his water supply. After scratching me beneath my chin and petting my neck, he too continued on his way.
Two down, one to go.
I hunted the dunes for the third traveler but, as the sun’s heat intensified, I started to fear the worst. I had about another hour left before I had to turn around and head back to the oasis as the desert wasn’t safe at night. That’s when the predators came out and they loved to ambush unsuspecting prey. Just as I was about to give up, I saw a small shape in the distance, laying on the shaded side of a large dune.
Oh my gosh! Am I too late!”
I ran as fast as I could, water sloshing around in the barrel with each trot, some of it dripping out through the tap. When I finally saw what it was, I gasped. It was an adolescent man. A nervousness took hold of me. Young men made up for most of those who died in the desert—always wanting to push the boundaries of their limitations but lacking the experience to do so.
I ran to him. He did not move. I placed one of my feet on his chest and slowly rocked him back and forth. He still did not move. I kicked him. He did not make a sound. Eventually, I did the one thing my late master told me never to do and spat. The thick globule of saliva hurtled through the hot air with deadly accuracy, splattering on his face.
Finally, the man stirred, spittering and sputtering to keep the spit from entering his mouth. After he wiped his eyes with the back of his sleeve, he looked up at me as if I were sent from the heavens, and used my leg as a brace to pick himself up.
He filled his two canteens with water, drank half of one, and then filled it again. Finally, he pet my neck and said, “Thank you, Mr. Camel. I would have been lost without you.”
I smiled and he continued on his way. I trailed behind him for a bit to ensure he was okay and then headed back to the oasis, arriving just as the sun touched the western horizon.
“Gary!” Mr. Lizard called once I was in sight. “How’d you do today?”
“Three for three today.”
I walked over to the pool and set the barrel down at the shore. After taking many gulps of water for myself and grazing on some grass, I laid down between two bushy shrubs. Mr. Lizard skittered over, climbed up my side, and started licking the back of my neck where the leather strap rubbed my skin raw. Once the numbing compounds of his saliva started to work their magic, I gave a lazy yawn and stared off toward the west and waited for the colors of the sunset to paint themselves across the sky. Just like the morning, all was still and quiet and it was times like these when I missed my master, terribly. I looked over to the side of the oasis. A bleached white skeleton lay atop a fertile patch of grass, bones picked clean, courtesy of Mr. Buzzard. A single tear streamed down my fuzzy cheek.
Even in death, I will continue to serve you.
Then, I lay my head down and was fast asleep, eager to start the next day.